Podcast

Molly Haskell, Frankly My Dear and more

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Molly Haskell

Film critic Molly Haskell talks about her finely written treatment of the American classic (book and film) Gone With the Wind. It’s called FRANKLY MY DEAR: Gone with the Wind Revisited. After that, we visit the Enchanted Circle Theater’s  production of The Skinner Servants Tour.

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Margaret Mitchell’s 1937 novel Gone with the Wind is one of the best selling books of all time– to the tune of some 30 million copies. It also won the Pulitzer Prize. The Academy Award-winning movie version produced by David O. Selznick and released two years later has sold more tickets than any other film in U.S. history. Why has this epic of a war that tore our country apart, featuring a woman, Scarlett O’Hara, as the hero, held such sway over the American imagination?

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Gone with the Wind’s story of triumph over adversity resonated powerfully with an American public struggling for survival during the Great Depression. And later, each generation has found its own reasons to admire the story. But the book and movie have also been roundly condemned: for racism,idealizing slavery and the racial relations of the antebellum South. And feminists have cringed at the romanticization of Scarlett’s rape by Rhett Butler.

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Film critic Molly Haskell writes in her new  book, FRANKLY MY DEAR: GONE WITH THE WIND  REVISITED, that Gone with the Wind is anchored in a  strong, capable female character who prospers through  her own ingenuity–Scarlett O’Hara. In writing  her, Margaret Mitchell was ahead of her time. And David  O. Selznick went against his time’s Hollywood convention  that punished strong women characters in its narratives. Finally, Vivien Leigh combined true grit with feminine delicacy to create a heroic character that has inspired women of all ages, races and nations ever since.

FRANKLY MY DEAR is a marvelous dissection of the personalities around the book and movie and the place of this iconic story in American life. Molly Haskell has written extensively on women and film, including her 1973 classic From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies.

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Holyoke Massachusetts was once home to some of the wealthiest families in America. During it’s heydey in the 19th and early 20th century, the mills of this typical New England factory town ran night and day, making the paper the city was famous for. But not just paper: one of the pre-eminent families of Holyoke were the Skinners, headed by the silk manufacturer Wiliam Skinner and his sister, Belle.

Their elegant mansion still dominantes a hill overlooking  the factories below. It’s now the Wisteriahurst Museum.  Several years back the Wisteriahurst commissioned a local  theater troupe, the Enchanted Circle Theater, to write a  play about the history of the house and its family.

Director Patricia Hellweg and co-playwright Rachel Kuhn Daviau decided to write The Skinner Servants Tour from the perspective of the Skinner family servants so they could delve into the class realities that underlay the family’s opulence. The year is 1927 and the servants are bringing a group of newspaper reporters–in reality the audience–on a tour of the house. WV spoke with the playwrights and attended the play in 2007. We hear an excerpt from the play, performed by actor James Emery.

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Carol Edelstein

Perugia Press is a wonderful little poetry press in  western Massachusetts that publishes works by women.  The press has just given out their annual prize for a first  or second book of poetry. This year’s winner is Two  Minutes of Light by Nancy K. Pearson. We hear some  poems from the 2005 winner, Carol Edelstein. It’s from  a CD of the Prize winners, put out by the Perugia Press.

Read Carol Edelstein’s poem “Icarus Descending” from The Disappearing Letters.

Finally, we hear Anis Mojgani‘s spoken word poem, “Galumph Deze Nuts”.

You can see the poet reciting the poem on this YouTube video.

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